Varley managed a foot injury for most of last season, which ended only after a trip to Argentina with Ireland in June, and Munster head coach Anthony Foley reported yesterday that the issue was still causing concern.
“Since he came back from tour he didn’t react to the treatment, didn’t react to rest. We were told a period off it would help with his foot, but it didn’t react so when he came back and went to train it didn’t feel right. We’ve investigated different types of treatment and we’ve found a treatment that seems to work. He’s feeling a lot better in terms of what he can do, we’re going to push on his rehab. But if I threw out a date I’d be lying to you.”
The good news is that Varley is aerobically fit. Mindful of the risk of soft tissue injury to players who have spent time off their feet, Munster have had the hooker doing weights, aqua jogging and running on a reduced-impact treadmill. The new head coach also has concerns over new No 8 Robin Copeland who “took a bang” in the pre-season defeat of London Irish in Waterford on Friday, as well as full-back/wing Luke O’Dea.
Props James Cronin and David Kilcoyne are “a week or two” away from featuring while centre Cian Bohane, who was stretchered off with a leg injury with five minutes left to play in Waterford, was undergoing a scan yesterday.
Yet, it is the middle of his front row causing Foley and his staff most concern ahead of tomorrow night’s match at Thomond Park with Varley, Mike Sherry (long-term) and Niall Scannell all unavailable. Duncan Casey returned to bank four minutes off the bench against the Exiles last weekend and, though Foley waxed lyrical about the input of the inexperienced Kevin O’Byrne and Ger Slattery, he will expect more from Eusebio Guinazu The 32-year old has joined for four months from Bath.
“He probably is a typical front row from Argentina, he’s got excellent lineout throwing, he’s good around the contact area, has a good, low tackle focus. He’s a big man, excellent scrummager, he can play loosehead as well.
“He’s a big man, I’m looking forward to working with him and seeing what he brings in. I’ve watched footage of him, I’ve spoken to Peter Stringer about him and all the information I have is positive. I think he can benefit us.”
Munster will open their campaign at a Thomond Park that has been upgraded over the summer with a view to improving the matchday experience for supporters with expanded food and drink facilities, more pre-game entertainment and improved access routes. A Fan Zone Plaza and dedicated Family Fun Zone area have been introduced, the Guinness Dug Out bar has been given a face-lift and, with Thomond Park Stadium taking ownership of the public bars, extra revenue should be generated for the branch.
Meanwhile, Leinster have had two of their best and brightest back rows ruled out for a number of months. Ireland international Jordi Murphy has succumbed to a shoulder injury that required surgery and will be missing for 12 weeks while U20 star Dan Leavy suffered a medial strain to his right knee against Ulster last weekend and will sit out two months.